Diagnosing Bipolar II Disorder

DSM criteria

Diagnosing Bipolar 2
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There are five check-points a doctor will review with you in diagnosing bipolar II disorder as per the criteria found in the DSM-IV.

Bipolar disorder is an illness defined by periods (better known as episodes) of extreme mood disturbances. If you have bipolar I disorder, you have episodes of mania and depression. If you have bipolar II disorder, you will experience severe depression and a less severe form of mania known as hypomania.

Therefore, your doctor will review your history and current concerns to determine if:

  1. You are having an episode of hypomania or if you’ve had one in the past.
  2. You are having an episode of depression or if you’ve had one in the past.
  3. You are not having a manic episode or if you’ve previously had one of these.
  4. Your mood symptoms are not primarily part of a psychotic illness such as schizoaffective disorder or happening at the same time as symptoms of schizophrenia.
  5. Your symptoms are causing significant problems in any part of your life such as your family life, your social life, work, etc.

If your doctor, with your input, determines that your symptoms meet all the above points, you will most likely be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.

As noted above, these criteria have been established through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

It is the primary system used to classify and diagnose all mental disorders.

Note: The current edition of the DSM also excludes the presence of mixed episodes in Bipolar II disorder. This exclusion will likely be eliminated in the next edition, and already clinicians are not diagnosing with this exclusion in mind.

Per this formal classification system, bipolar disorder is a clinical disorder within the category of mood disorders. The manual recognizes four types of bipolar disorder. Each specific type of bipolar disorder is distinguished by the others through the nature of episodes experienced.


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR).

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